Hernia surgery can help to alleviate pain when symptoms present themselves. The procedure can also help you live a normal life.
Hernia surgery can be lifesaving in some cases.
Because the simple fact is, hernias cannot repair themselves. They will not heal and, if left untreated, can only get worse.
Without hernia surgery, the problem is likely to grow larger and become more painful. Eventually, it will cause a lack of blood flow to vital areas.
To help with these issues, general surgeons recommend hernia surgery. Keep reading to learn more about hernias and the distinct types of hernia surgeries available to you.
If you suspect you have a hernia, contact Healthy Life Bariatrics to schedule a consultation with a board-certified general surgeon, Dr. Babak Moeinolmolki. With precise techniques and a friendly bedside manner, Dr. Moein and his professional surgical team can treat your hernia and keep it from returning.
What is a Hernia?
You are having a hernia when fatty tissue or one of your organs presses through a weak spot in the muscle or supportive tissue.
Hernias have various names depending on where they occur. These include:
- Inguinal hernia (inner groin)
- Femoral hernia (outer groin)
- Incisional hernia (resulting from a surgical incision)
- Hiatal hernia (upper stomach)
- Umbilical hernia (belly button)
- And the epigastric hernia (between the belly button and chest)
Let’s look at each one in greater detail.
An inguinal hernia happens when a section of the intestine protrudes through a weakened spot in the abdominal muscles.
This produces a bulge in your abdomen that you can readily see. Sometimes, this bulge can be painful, especially when you exert yourself, cough, laugh, or bend over.
Some inguinal hernias have no direct cause. Others may be the result of increased abdominal pressure, a preexisting weak spot in the abdominal muscles, straining during bowel movements, chronic coughing, and heavy lifting.
Other symptoms of an inguinal hernia can include an ache at the location of the bulge and a heavy sensation in your groin. You may also experience swelling around the testicles when the intestinal section descends into the scrotum.
Not all inguinal hernias cause pain, and the condition is not always dangerous.
In some cases, you can push an inguinal hernia back into place with a gentle belly massage and light pressure.
Inner groin hernias will not heal on their own, however, and can pose a threat to your health if left untreated.
The condition becomes life-threatening when an inner groin hernia becomes strangulated. That means the intestinal section has become trapped within the abdominal wall, cutting off blood supply to the area.
When this happens, you might experience nausea, vomiting, fever, sudden pain that intensifies, and an inability to move your bowels or pass gas. The hernia section can also turn a darker shade of purple or red when the trapped organ becomes strangulated. If this happens, you should seek medical attention immediately.
How to Diagnose An Inguinal Hernia?
A doctor will perform a physical examination to diagnose an inner groin hernia. The doctor is searching for a bulge in the groin area. You may be told to stand or cough because these actions can make the hernia appear more pronounced. Imaging tests may be ordered as a follow-up if the physical exam is inconclusive.
A femoral hernia occurs in the outer groin area. The problem occurs when fat or a portion of the intestine protrudes through the abdominal wall that extends to the upper leg area.
Sometimes, there is no cause for a femoral hernia. They can simply occur on their own. But any pressure, straining, or stress on the muscles can lead to one of these hernia complications.
The bulge for this type of hernia appears as a lump the size of a grape. It usually forms in the groin area near your inner thigh. Because the bulge is so small, it might not appear harmful, but femoral hernias can be dangerous.
Like an inguinal hernia, femoral hernias can be pushed back into the abdomen. Doctors call this a reducible femoral hernia.
In other cases, the hernia gets stuck in the femoral canal. This is referred to as an incarcerated or irreducible femoral hernia.
You might feel pain, but not always. You could also become sick.
Like the inner groin version of the same ailment, the portion of the intestine that becomes strangulated within the femoral canal can be life-threatening. The inner thigh bulge might increase in size when this happens, and the pain can increase so significantly, it can lead to vomiting.
Femoral hernias are particularly at risk of becoming strangulated. Seek medical attention immediately if you experience similar symptoms to inguinal strangulation, such as the bulge turning darker, fever, and severe pain.
How to Diagnose a Femoral Hernia?
A doctor will examine your groin to accurately diagnose a femoral hernia. This can be done while standing up or lying down, and usually accompanies coughing. The doctor will usually attempt to shove the lump back into place, also known as reducing the hernia. If it cannot be reduced, you may be referred to a general surgeon who can perform femoral hernia surgery.
Incisional hernias occur when tissue protrudes through a surgical site that is still healing or that contains a surgical scar. This type of hernia accounts for around 15% to 20% of all abdominal hernia cases.
You can usually identify an incisional hernia when the bulge becomes more pronounced at the surgical site when standing upright or performing physical activity.
Surgical patients usually get these hernias at the front of their abdomen.
While inguinal and femoral hernias typically involve a section of the intestine, this hernia type involves the abdominal lining only. For this reason, incisional hernias are considered less severe than other common forms.
An incisional hernia will not heal on its own. Most don’t cause serious problems, however. In rare instances, parts of the bowel might become trapped in the hernia opening, obstructing bowel movements and cutting off blood supply to the affected organ.
Surgery is the recommended treatment for an incisional hernia.
How to Diagnose an Incisional Hernia?
A doctor will perform a physical examination of your abdominal area to diagnose one of these hernias. The surgeon may ask you to stand or cough during the exam.
A hiatal hernia involves the protrusion of stomach tissue through the abdominal wall.
The diaphragm contains a small opening, known as the hiatus. The esophagus, which is your food tube, passes through the hiatus before it connects to your stomach.
When you form a hiatal hernia, the stomach pushes through the hiatus, where it ends up in your chest.
Doctors aren’t always clear on why this happens. But hiatal hernias can be caused by injury to the chest, the person having a genetically large hiatus, and persistent pressure due to heavy lifting or straining during bowel movements.
Hiatal hernias are most common in older people above 50 and the obese.
A tiny bit of stomach tissue won’t cause problems in most cases. You may never know you have a hiatal hernia if the stomach tissue affected is small enough. Usually, these tinier hernias are only diagnosed by accident when doctors are checking for a different condition.
A larger hiatal hernia can function as a passageway for food and stomach acid to back up into your esophagus. When this happens, heartburn can result.
Larger hiatal hernias are usually the only ones to cause symptoms. In addition to heartburn and gastric reflux, you may experience the regurgitation of food or liquids, difficulty swallowing, chest or abdominal pain, and shortness of breath. You might also feel full immediately after eating.
In severe cases, you may vomit blood or pass black stool, which indicates the stomach portion has become strangulated. See your doctor immediately if you feel pain or experience severe hiatal hernia symptoms.
How to Diagnose a Hiatal Hernia?
Hiatal hernias are usually diagnosed with imaging equipment like X-rays, an upper endoscopy, or esophageal manometry.
X-rays are taken after you are asked to drink a chalky liquid that coats the inside of your digestive tract. The coating lets the silhouette of your esophagus, stomach, and upper intestine show up clearly on the X-ray slides.
An upper endoscopy is a thin, flexible tube that has a light and camera on the end. The tube is placed inside your throat to examine your esophagus and stomach. The doctor is looking for signs of a hiatal hernia, including inflammation.
Esophageal manometry measures the muscle contractions in the esophagus and the force exerted by the muscles when you swallow.
Surgery is the recommended treatment for a hiatal hernia.
The umbilical hernia is another that involves a portion of your intestine. The bulge this time occurs near your belly button. Umbilical hernias are quite common and usually harmless in adults.
Umbilical hernias happen more in infants.
When the problem occurs in adults, the cause is typically obesity, multiple pregnancies, abdominal cavity fluid, or long-term dialysis to treat kidney failure. You can also be susceptible to this hernia type if you have had abdominal surgery in the past.
You should seek treatment for an umbilical hernia if you experience pain, vomiting, and tenderness at the bulge site.
How to Diagnose an Umbilical Hernia?
Much like a hiatal hernia, umbilical hernias are diagnosed with a combination of physical exam and imaging technology. While many hernias are harmless, surgery can help if pain or other complications present themselves.
Epigastric hernias occur when organ tissue or fatty tissue pushes through the abdominal wall in the area between the chest and belly button. When this happens, a bulge can appear, and sometimes a tear.
Many epigastric hernias present no symptoms at all. They can also come and go at will. You may not notice the bulge unless you are straining, crying, or having a bowel movement.
Like other types, an epigastric hernia can become strangulated, leading to severe symptoms like pain and vomiting.
How to Diagnose an Epigastric Hernia?
A physical examination can usually be enough to diagnose an epigastric hernia.
Hernia Surgery is an Effective Treatment for All Types of Hernias
Now that you know more about the various hernia types, you may be wondering about treatment.
Surgery is the most recommended treatment for hernias that present symptoms and complications.
There are two types of hernia treatment. There is open surgery, where the general surgeon makes an incision and opens the abdominal cavity.
During open surgery, the abdominal wall is repaired, and sometimes mesh is used to keep the weakened area strengthened and intact. Most hernia surgeries prevent future hernias from occurring by fortifying the weakened abdominal muscles.
Then there is minimally invasive surgery. This procedure involves a tube-like camera with a light attached at the end. The surgeon will insert the camera into the abdominal cavity through tiny incisions, along with other laparoscopic tools.
The general surgeon can then operate on the hernia while viewing the action on a monitor. The technology allows for precise surgical techniques and offers effective hernia repair while minimizing risks and downtime.
And, since we use small incisions, the scars tend to be minuscule as well.
Have a Hernia? Get a Diagnosis by a Board-Certified General Surgeon
Dr. Babak Moeinolmolki of Healthy Life Bariatrics is an experienced general surgeon with decades of experience and a specialization in gastric surgery. Dr. Moeinolmolki uses laparoscopic surgery for hernia repair and emergency surgery.
If you have a hernia, or you suspect you do, get an accurate diagnosis by calling our Los Angeles location. Even if you present no symptoms now, that could change in the future. A hernia diagnosis could give you peace of mind and a chance to live a life without pain or hernia complications.